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Walking 52 Marathons in 52 Weeks

This year my goal is to walk the distance of 52 marathons in 52 weeks. That’s 1,362.4 and more than 2.5 million steps for the Multiple Sclerosis Community.

The Background

But before I take another step with Runkeeper, let me tell you a bit about what brought me here: It’s January 2003; I’m in my late 20’s. I just returned from a business trip to Las Vegas with multi-million dollar business deals on the horizon; all while my wife and I are brand-new home owners and our first daughter will be born in June. I’m just your everyday, regular ‘ol ‘John’ next door.

Walking 52 Marathons in 52 Weeks

By February 2003, something changed. My body called an audible and for the next two-and-a-half years, I became a gigantic question mark of health. After what seemed like a hundred medical tests, nearly a dozen doctors, and a progressive breaking down of my body, I heard the statement that brings me to tears yet today. September 6, 2005, in a grayish/blah neurologist’s office with my wife hand in mine, I receive these words: “You have Multiple Sclerosis.”

My journal entry for that day yields 174 words, while twice mentioning the words MOVE FORWARD and ends with the words NO REGRET. Looking back, it appears I was actually relieved to know what was ailing me. I now sometimes feel upset with myself for not feeling more enraged in that moment.

Your everyday, regular ‘ol ‘John’ tried to move forward. I tried to fight through symptoms, flare ups, medication side effects, and the never-bending corporate world until I couldn’t go anymore.

January 26, 2007 would be my last day of work and my Multiple Sclerosis would admit me into the hospital for the first time the following Monday. At the age of 32, I couldn’t move forward and I was removed from society in my high-functioning capacity while taking on a new label, “retired.”

From that point in my life until now, I have been on the Multiple Sclerosis journey and that’s a tough story. For this piece, I’d like to focus on what’s happened since July 2013.

By July 2013, some of my MS symptoms include: nystagmus (involuntary eye movement that limits vision on my left), vestibular disturbances in my inner ear (creating vertigo and balance issues when I move my head), numbness from my knees down, and best of all Uhthoff’s phenomenon (a loss of vision when my body temperature increases, yes BLINDNESS).

I know,I know—what the heck is a regular ‘ol ‘John’ writing on a RUNNING blog for?

Well, the truth is—something else changed in July! Yes, another change. This time my perspective changed again. I started looking at my Multiple Sclerosis as an opportunity.

The Opportunity

Now I’m focused on taking my most daunting obstacles and challenges, embraced them, and I’m turning them into strengths! With my doctors and therapists I ‘kicked’ my cane of seven years to the side. Yes, after walking with a cane for seven years, I stopped cold turkey! I started walking on my treadmill. Yep, I was tearing it up at a pace of 2 mph for 30 minutes every other day or so. Ummm, OK…that was the best I could do.

Yep it was! Given my MS symptoms that make it challenging for me to walk it was a struggle. You see, 2 mph for 30 minutes every other day WAS as good as I could do! The key word here…WAS. Working with my doctors, therapists, and others I’ve taken my challenges with walking and turned them into what I like to call my “adaptive walking.”

THIS is where Runkeeper adds a missing component. From July to September, I worked really hard on the treadmill. They are all computerized and keep track of progress. That’s wonderful BUT now the weather was turning cool! I wanted to take my new skill and try it outside.

Walking 52 Marathons in 52 Weeks

Walking outside without a cane presented an entire host of new challenges. (Side note: If anyone knows how to create perfectly flat sidewalks, contact me.) I needed something to help me ‘log’ my walking activity. I wanted something to help me set goals and realize those goals. You see, I was getting real serious about my walking. Runkeeper fit perfectly into these needs and my vision.

What vision do you speak of regular ‘ol ‘John’? Thanks for still reading and ASKING! Remember when I said my perspective changed and I was turning my obstacles/challenges into strength?

Well, I’ve turned this entire ‘adaptive walking’ thing into what I call 52in52.

The Goal

You see I’ve worked really hard AND on Nov 1st, I completed a 10k walk in 1 hour and 35 minutes. That’s ALMOST a 4 mph pace walking! Then I worked really hard some more AND on Nov 25th I completed my first ever Half Marathon in 3 hours and 22 minutes. Again, a 4 mph pace walking! On Dec 23rd, I completed my second Half Marathon in 3 hours and 6 minutes. Fifteen minutes faster than my first half marathon!

All of this is logged on Runkeeper and I used the ‘routes’ section to create my second Half Marathon route! Who would ever guessed a man that walked with a cane for seven years would log two half marathons within six months of “kicking” his cane to the side. Heck, who would ever guess there would be a credible, reliable, easy way for me to log these activities. Thanks Runkeeper!

Back to 52in52…as I’m doing all this walking I started to like the fact that I’m not dependent on a cane anymore and I have a sense of freedom. I was racking up the mileage, but more importantly it was time. Time I was taking back for myself. In that time it hit me! Why not walk as far as I can? Why not walk a marathon? Why not walk for an entire year straight?!

WHY NOT walk the distance of 52 marathons in 52 weeks?!

Yes, say it with me…ONE THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED SIXTY TWO point FOUR miles!

Exactly, WHY NOT!! !

I set out on January 1st, 2014, with this new goal to walk the distance of 52 marathons in 52 weeks. 1,362.4 miles which is approximately 2,500,000+ steps, that equals ONE step for every individual in the world living with MS! Every step I now take, I take with a very specific purpose.

Every step I now take, I take with Runkeeper and its community. You see, the weather will start to get warmer and yes I still have Multiple Sclerosis. I anticipate losing my vision occasionally, even a fall now and then, BUT I know with every fiber of my being I will continue taking that next step. Multiple Sclerosis stops individuals from moving so I will keep true to my journal entry from years ago and MOVE FORWARD. The only easy day was yesterday—I’ll need your support in achieving this goal, and I know Runkeeper will help me achieve my next step today and tomorrow…

Walking 52 Marathons in 52 Weeks

As of the above post date, John has walked 106.04 miles to meet his goal of 1,362.4 miles, completed his first ever 5 mile race (walk), will compete in a 15 mile race (walk), and is scheduled to walk his first marathon on Saturday, April 12, as part of the National MS Society’s Walk MS Event in Pittsburgh, PA.

John Platt

About the author:
John Platt

John is a husband and father living in Pittsburgh, PA. He serves as Chairman for the National MS Society PA Government Relations Committee and was recently inducted into the NMSS Hall of Fame for his advocacy work. He has become a positive voice within the MS Community and continues to push for the awareness of a disease that silences and robs individuals in the prime of their lives.

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